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Water for Elephants Audiobook

Water for Elephants

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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Two narrators weave together strands of a story spanning decades. David LeDoux portrays the lead character in his twenties and John Randolph Jones is the same character 70 years later. Both are excellent, but Jones' rough bass filled my head with the joys and pain felt by the old man, in a way that the voice I hear when I read to myself could never have done. One of the most outstanding audiobooks I've ever heard! —Beth Anderson

Publisher's Summary

An atmospheric tale of life and love in a Depression-era traveling circus.

Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant.

Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.

©2006 Sara Gruen; (P)2006 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award, Adult Fiction, 2007
  • Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, Unabridged, 2007

"Water for Elephants resembles stealth hits like The Giant's House, by Elizabeth McCracken, or The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale.” (New York Times Book Review)

"Just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief." (Booklist)

"Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes, and freaks who populate her book." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (17234 )
5 star
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3 star
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4.4 (9379 )
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Story
4.6 (9300 )
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Kathleen Highland Village, TX, USA 01-23-09
    Kathleen Highland Village, TX, USA 01-23-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    49
    9
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Great listen"

    Author and narrator both did a great job. I loved the character in both his youth and as a crotchety old man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin West Bountiful, UT, United States 01-16-09
    Robin West Bountiful, UT, United States 01-16-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    122
    17
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    "Great book"

    I loved everything about this book and would recommend it highly to anyone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill austin, TX, United States 01-12-09
    Bill austin, TX, United States 01-12-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    148
    6
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    0
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    Overall
    "My new Favoritist Book Audiobook...EVER!"

    I was a huge fan of the TV Show "Carnivale" and that is the feeling I got from this (sans the supernatural). The characters were engaging and the narrators were cast perfectly.

    I never would have downloaded this book if it hadn't been #1 for 2006. Thanks to Audible to pointing this one out to me!

    I just finished it, and I may listen to it again before moving to a new book.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie Greenwood, IN, United States 01-02-09
    Leslie Greenwood, IN, United States 01-02-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    162
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent narration!"

    The narration of "Water for Elephants" is truly one of the best I have heard! Both narrators are outstanding, adding so much depth to each "side" of the main character. This is a wonderful book on its own, but I am so glad I listened to it rather than reading the paper copy. The performers really added to my enjoyment of the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hannah berlinGermany 12-31-08
    Hannah berlinGermany 12-31-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    "easy on the ears- no surprises"

    This book is a good one to listen to if you aren't looking for anything too challenging. It's not a heavy book- the story follows a pretty predictable trajectory. It's a love story. I am not saying this is a bad thing- sometimes it is exactly what I want to hear. The narrators were easy on the ears and added a lot to the characters without over-acting (although the narrator's female voices were a bit silly). Historic elements were well-researched which added a bit of richness (if you liked Stewart O'Nan's "circus fire", this is a good fictional companion to it). I would put this book on the "entertaining-story-to-listen-to-while-doing-something-slightly-banal-but-requiring-a-degree-of-mental-activity" shelf. Not quite enough meat for "road-trip-through-desert-country", more suitable for "re-apholstering-the-sofa" or "knitting-something-only-slightly-more-complicated-than-mittens"sections of the library.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Stephens Williamsburg, VA USA 12-23-08
    C. Stephens Williamsburg, VA USA 12-23-08 Member Since 2007

    The 25-Hour Mom

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
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    71
    4
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    Overall
    "water for the soul"

    This book came together in so many ways. The narrators were excellent. It didn't bother me that the book went back and forth between the two time periods. It was well done. I hope my mind is as sharp at 90 (or 93).

    Some books you never want to end, some you can't finish, and some don't end ... they just stop. This one could not have had a more perfect ending ... and I never saw it coming. It was a wonderful surprise.

    This was the best listen I've had all year.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy COFFS HARBOURAustralia 12-21-08
    Wendy COFFS HARBOURAustralia 12-21-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    24
    12
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    FOLLOWING
    1
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    Overall
    "wendygai"

    a great story, beautifully written and narrated

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Cooper 12-07-08 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    2
    Overall
    "Wonderful story"

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a good human interest story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 11-20-08 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    1
    Overall
    "Great narration, wonderful story"

    I enjoyed this audio for the wonderful juxtaposition of the two Jacobs plus the wild circus story. A couple of times I thought the Marlena story was a bit unbelievable. But other than that the cast of supporting characters, Kinko, Camel and the like were unforgettable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael norwalk, CA, USA 11-11-08
    Michael norwalk, CA, USA 11-11-08 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    2
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    0
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    Overall
    "water for elephants"

    Amazing book. Very well written. Very well read.
    I could not wait to get back into my car to hear more. I was sorry when it was over. Must read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Jess
    saffron walden, United Kingdom
    5/13/11
    Overall
    "Worth every penny!"

    Like all the previous reviews there is nothing I did not like about this title. The narration was fabulous and I loved the story, even doing my daughters washing up turn so that I could listen to it! I found myself totally lost in the story and characters and I agree that if you love 'The Help' you will love this too.Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Natalie
    MorpethUnited Kingdom
    4/21/11
    Overall
    "wonderful"

    I found this story absolutely enthralling. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good listen.
    The older character was particularly astute and his comments on growing old, loss of dignity and focus on life are particularly moving.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jonathan
    Southsea, Hampshire, United Kingdom
    3/25/11
    Overall
    "Brilliant story - v. well read - like being there!"

    I bought this off the back of initial reviewer's description and was not once disappointed. An amazing story and very clever/slick switching between main character when he was a young man in the circus and when he was an old man in a retirement home, and back and forth throughout. A very clever prologue (which you only realise fully later) - it grips you from the start. I found myself wanting to keep getting back to the book to see what happened next, so never a dull moment. The reading of this book was excellent, almost like you were there with the characters, and every emotion was instantly shared. I highly recommend this book, even if the initial subject puts you off - I wasn't sure before I started but I am now very glad I took the plunge. 5 stars well deserved!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • M. Bashford
    Brighton
    7/11/10
    Overall
    "A Journey with the circus"

    An Amazing journey across America by train with the circus. I felt I was there sharing the excitement, adventures, but tough life they led. The main character is now in his nineties and it tells also of his life in a nursing home and how he is coping with old age. Wonderful journey narrated so well.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Book Squirrel
    uk
    2/7/09
    Overall
    "Best book read in 2008"

    This turned out to be one of my favourite books for 2008. This story flowed so well and you get a real view of what life was like not only in a circus but what it was like to have a job in the depression.

    The story was brilliantly written with the narator not only living in the present but his memories of his earlier life. As a Care Assistant myself I related to how he felt in his nursing home and having his independance taken away from him bit by bit.

    Highly recommended!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Ms. Laura Mercier
    11/5/08
    Overall
    "Fantastic"

    This is a really wonderful story - beautifully written and read. I know I'll come back to this one again and again, it's a real gem.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • John
    Berkhamsted, United Kingdom
    6/16/11
    Overall
    "A great story told by a great story teller"

    It's not a great work of literature but it is a damn good story. This is one of the few books I've listened to where the narrator has really made the book come to life. Cliched or classic, you decide. The ending is not what you think, but in hindsight you wonder how could it be any different. Enjoy!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Meena
    London, United Kingdom
    6/13/11
    Overall
    "Excellent"

    This was an excellent listen. Very enjoyable, not bored at all. Would recommend to just about everyone.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Georgina
    Horsham, United Kingdom
    6/10/11
    Overall
    "Great listen"

    I really did not want this book to end. I savoured every moment. It oozed images, smells and noise as it journeyed with the circus and the compelling characters. It's going to be difficult to find another book to rival it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Anthony
    ambleside, United Kingdom
    6/10/11
    Overall
    "brilliant"

    This is a book you must listen to. Absolutely stunning piece of work. Never in a book have I felt so much as though I was there, the smells, the noises. Perfection.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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